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Russian Airplane With 224 On Board Crashes In Egypt's Sinai Peninsula; No Survivors

With tensions already at deeply concerning levels between Russians and their various adversaries in the MENA region, a few hours ago this Saturday morning, around 4:20am GMT to be precise, a Russian airliner carrying 224 passengers and crew crashed in Egypt's Sinai peninsula. Egyptian officials say there are no survivors from the crash.

The Airbus A321 shown below, also known as Kolavia Flight 7K9268, operated by Russian airline Kogalymavia under the brand name Metrojet, was flying from the Sinai Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to St Petersburg in Russia when it went down in a desolate mountainous area of central Sinai soon after daybreak.

EI-ETJ is an Airbus A321 that belongs to airline Kolavia/Metrojet. Age 18 years
https://t.co/EVPhMQGOoK

pic.twitter.com/XUTMgx2zNn

— Flightradar24 (@flightradar24)

The aircraft took off at 5:51 a.m. Cairo time (0351 GMT) and disappeared from radar screens 23 minutes later, Egypt's Civil Aviation Ministry said in a statement. It was at an altitude of 31,000 feet (9,400 meters) when it vanished from radar screens. According to various flight tracking services the aircraft, having made an apparently smooth take off, lurched into a rapid descent shortly after approaching cruising altitude.

 

Airbus has confirmed the crash:

We regret to confirm an accident involving a Metrojet A321, flight 7K9268. Statement #1: https://t.co/n3dntVsdW5 1/2

— Airbus (@Airbus)

A loop of the flight's brief flight before crashing is shown below:

RT

: Looping playback of . Last data recorded at 04:13:22 UTC https://t.co/YGvJ7T0VMG pic.twitter.com/vkMDw93yzX

— Eric Lewis (@SubEWL)

The aircraft was descending rapidly at about 6,000 (2,000 meters) feet per minute before the signal was lost to air traffic control.

Speed / Alt plotted on graph. Speed (purple) drops off before we lost contact at 04:13:10z

pic.twitter.com/yhJSZ1Dclw

— Plane Finder (@planefinder)

Raw data shows plane EI-ETJ had entered a steep descent.

Download here https://t.co/Un19KvW1re pic.twitter.com/hlQ4X9URVL

— Plane Finder (@planefinder)

A cabinet statement said Egyptian military planes had spotted wreckage of the plane in the Hassana area, south of Arish. The statement said: "Military planes have discovered the wreckage of the plane in a mountainous area and 45 ambulance have been directed to the site to evacuate dead and wounded."

People gather at the airline information desk at of Russian airline Kogalymaviaís desk.

The crash scene is a disaster.

"I now see a tragic scene," an Egyptian security officer at the scene told Reuters by telephone. "A lot of dead on the ground and many who died whilst strapped to their seats.

"The plane split into two, a small part on the tail end that burned and a larger part that crashed into a rock. We have extracted at least 100 bodies and the rest are still inside," the officer, who requested anonymity, said.

Emergency services and aviation specialists quickly began an inspection of the wreckage for any patterns of damage that could point to the cause. One of two flight recorders was quickly found, but wreckage was scattered over a wide area.

The security officer said 120 intact bodies had been found. Express adds that other bodies were also found strapped in to their seats after rescue teams searched the crash site.

No photos or footage of the crash site because of media blackout by the army in Sinai since 2013. https://t.co/QS9gjtpGIl

— Dalia Ezzat (@DaliaEzzat_)

Since accidents at cruising altitude are one of the rarest categories of accidents (but also among the most deadly, accounting for 13 percent of fatal incidents), the immediate question on everyone's mind - was the plane shot down from the ground? So far there are no clue as to what caused the crash.  Sinai is the scene of an insurgency by militants close to Islamic State, who have killed hundreds of Egyptian soldiers and police and have also attacked Western targets in recent months.

Russia, an ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, launched air raids against opposition groups in Syria including Islamic State on Sept. 30.

Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail was heading to the crash site in the Hassana area 35 km (22 miles) south of the Sinai Mediterranean coastal city of Al Arish with several cabinet ministers on a private jet, the tourism ministry said.

Russian television showed film of anxious relatives and friends waiting for information at St. Petersburg's Pulkovo airport. Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a day of national mourning for Sunday.

The Airbus A321 has a solid safety record. It is a 185-seat medium-haul jet in service since 1994, with over 1,100 in operation worldwide and a good safety record. It is a highly automated aircraft relying on computers to help pilots stay within safe flying limits.

Saturday's crash is the second fatal accident involving this variant of the A320 jetliner family, according to data from the Flight Safety Foundation. Airbus said it had no independent information on the crash and declined to comment on the aircraft involved.

If any form of terrorist activity is confirmed, this will surely escalate the war in the region which yesterday bypassed mere proxy status, and will now see both Russian and US soldiers fighting on the opposite sides of the battlefield, this will merely push the world that much closer to a unrestrained conflict.

For now the hope is that this was purely a technical issue: the Russian RIA news agency, citing sources at Sharm el-Sheikh, said: "The pilot contacted the dispatcher and reported technical problems, asking for a change of the route and a landing at Cairo airport, after which communication was broken."

According to RT, Metrojet had a fatal incident in 2011, when one of its planes caught fire on a runway in Surgut Airport in Russia’s Urals. Three people died and 40 were injured as the plane burned out in just 10 minutes.

The last large-scale Russian airline incident happened in November 2013, when Tatarstan Airlines Flight 363 crashed at Kazan International Airport while attempting to land. Fifty people died in the incident.

The UK's David Cameron has expressed his condolences.

My thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of the victims of the Russian plane crash in Egypt and the Bucharest nightclub fire

— David Cameron (@David_Cameron)

Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed his deepest condolences to the families of victims of the crashed airliner.  Putin also ordered government ministries to offer immediate assistance to relatives of those killed and an investigation into the causes of the crash.

The president declared a national day of mourning to take place on Sunday, November 1.